Hi guys. This this is our weekly-ish vlog, where I take a break from the tutorials and other interesting content we produce for Stumpy Nubs Woodworking Journal, and instead talk about what goes on behind the scenes at our workshops. Once a month, we do a special edition of this volg which we call “Cool Tools,” mostly because that rhymes, but also because I get to show you some of the interesting things we’ve been working with in our two shops. Maybe they’re new innovations that you’ve never heard about, or maybe they’re just good ideas that you’ve never thought about. Either way, these are some of the most popular videos because everyone loves cool tools. Today we have a table saw dado jig, a magnetic combination square, earplugs that play music, clever collet wrenches, and an inexpensive tool that saved my fingers. If you want to skip ahead to a particular tool, you’ll find a quick-link to that point in the video in the notes below. You’ll also find Amazon links to the tools so you can read independent reviews and get more information. Just click on “show more” Below the video on YouTube Now let’s get started.
I saw this at a woodworking show in Detroit last month, and it looked so interesting, I had to get one to try out. It’s called the MatchFit dado stop, and I’ll show you how the dado function works in a minute. But it also has some uses that go beyond dados. For one thing, it can be used as an indexing stop for making repeated crosscuts with a miter gauge. Let’s say I want to make a bunch of cutoffs that are 4” wide, but I don’t want to measure and mark every one individually. I may be tempted to set my table saw fence to 4” and use it to index the cut. But that’s dangerous. The cutoff can get caught between the blade and the fence, catch a tooth, and embed itself in my forehead. So, a lot of people clamp a scrap of wood to the fence, and index off that. That’s better, but a ¾” scrap doesn’t give your cutoff much room to rotate, as it sometimes will at the end of the cut. It can still catch the blade. And, if you don’t know the exact thickness of the scrap, it can be difficult to use your table saw fence’s scale to accurately control the length of the cutoff. So, you’re back to measuring and marking.
The Matchfit Dado stop was made to cut dados, but it can also double as an indexing jig. It’s exactly 3” wide, which gives you extra room for your cutoff to stay clear of the blade, and it makes the math easy too. I just add 3” to my length, so for a 4” cutoff, I set the fence to 7”.
I can also take advantage of the exact width of the jig when it comes to recalibrating the scale on the fence itself. When you change your sawblade, your scale can be thrown off because different blades come in different thicknesses. So, I clamp the MatchFit Dado Stop to my fence, and slide it over until the jig is just touching the side of a tooth. Then I can lock the fence in place, and set the scale to exactly 3”, calibrating my fence to my saw blade.
Of course, those are just some of the bonus uses of the jig. What it’s primarily used for is cutting precise dados. It’s a simple four step process. Finger #1 touches the fence side of the saw blade, finger #2 aligns with the other side of the blade, which is easy to do if you trim the end of a scrap, and then extend the finger to touch it. Next I use a square to set the third finger to the thickness of the workpiece. And the last step is to set the blade height. Now I’m ready to cut, using the fingers as my reference points to nibble out the dado one kerf at a time. I could also use a dado set, I don’t have to use a regular saw blade like this. But, since I hate taking the time to install a dado set, especially if I only have a few dados to cut, this jig comes in very handy.
There is one limiting factor, though. You can only use it with workpieces that are narrow enough to cut with your miter gauge. It won’t work with large panels for big casework. But there are countless tasks that it really excels at, from book shelves, to grid work, half lap joints, even tenons. It’s a simple idea that opens up a lot of possibilities. It’s also well made, which I find to be the case with all the Micro Jig stuff I’ve tried. You do need one of their dovetail shaped clamps to use it, so that’s an added expense if you don’t already have one of those. But I’ll link to all of that in the notes below the video so you can look at more reviews and see if this is something that’s right for your shop.
This next tool is something I’ve been using for years, and people ask me about it all the time. It’s a clever idea which, once you start using it, will change the way you use a common tool. It looks like a regular combination square, but instead of the spring locking mechanism found on other squares, this one has a set of rare earth magnets embedded into the body. Why is that a big deal? Because it makes the whole thing easier to use, in my opinion. For one thing, the magnets provide just the right amount of drag as you set the rule to a specific measurement, with I think makes it easier to quickly set it up for drawing lines parallel to the edge of a workpiece, something I do many times throughout the course of a project. But the best thing about those magnets is how they allow you to very quickly pop the rule off to use separately from the body, and right back on again. The locking mechanism on many standard combination squares can turn inside the body, or otherwise be a bit of a pain when you try to take the ruler off and put it on again, especially if you don’t have a really expensive square, like a Starrett. This one is far less expensive, but still of surprisingly high quality. The rule is thicker than a lot of squares I’ve owned; the markings are laser engraved and easy to see; and it is very accurate. If there is one downside, it’s that, while the magnets hold the rule in place very firmly, it isn’t impossible to move it if you bump the end of the rule against something. It takes a pretty firm hit to move it out of place, and I’ve never found it to be an issue. But you do have to be a little more careful with it.
I used to use my combination square occasionally. But ever since I started using the Bora version, which I’ve had for about five years now, I use it all the time. It’s just handier to work with. If you go back and look, you’ll see this red square in a lot of our jig build videos. And like I said, people ask about it all the time. So now you know what it is. It’s one of the best kept secrets in hand tools, in my opinion. Check out the link in the notes below for more info.
I like to listen to woodworking podcasts in the shop. But I don’t do it very often because either the machines drown them out, or my hearing protection does. But at a recent woodworking show I met the folks from ISO tunes. They make Bluetooth earbuds that also provide hearing protection. In fact, they claim to be the only product that has been proven through industrial tests required for hearing protection under EPA standards, receiving an ANSI noise reduction rating of 26 decibels. So, I decided to try them out. The thing is, they offer two models, the standard and the Pro version. Usually I would just get the best model, but there are a couple of features of the standard ones that I like, which the pro don’t have, and vice-versa. Both came in nice little carrying cases that will fit in an apron pocket. Both are Bluetooth enabled, so they will connect wirelessly to your telephone or other device for listening to whatever it is you listen to. Both include microphones so you can answer telephone calls too, and the mics have noise canceling technology which blocks certain frequencies like the drone of a table saw or lawn mower so the person on the other side of the line can still hear you while you work. Both recharge using a usb cable, which plugs into a little port in the side of the controller. The pro version offers slightly better hearing protection with a 27 rating, compared to 26 for the standard ones. The pro version is also water and sweat-proof, while the standard ones are splash and sweat proof. Surprisingly, the standard version have slightly larger drivers (8mm as compared to 6mm in the pro) which seem to produce slightly richer bass to me. But that’s a matter of opinion. Both have sound limiting technology that caps the volume at 85 decibels, which meets OSHA requirements for protecting your hearing from permanent damage. At first I was worried they wouldn’t be loud enough, but after you take into consideration that they block outside noise, they are more than loud enough for my tastes.
The biggest differences between the two involve the way you wear them. The Pro version has a wire that bends to the shape of your ear, holding them in place, which I like because it gives me extra security against them falling out. The standard model just relies upon the memory foam earpads to hold them in, which worked fine, but they did come loose occasionally. What I do like about the standard design as opposed to the pro design are the magnets on the back of the earbuds, which snap together, letting the whole thing hang from your neck when you don’t have them in your ears. The pro version just sort of drape over your neck, and can fall off easily. However, the battery life on the pro version is far beter, with 10 hours of listening time and 240 hours of standby as compared to just under 4 hours of listening and 150 hours of standby for the standard ones. That feature alone is enough to sway me over to the pro model because I can use them all day long, sometimes for two days depending on how much actual listening time I use, while the other ones would have to be charged while you take a lunch break if you want to listen to music all day long.
The bottom line is, they block sound as well as earplugs, and you can listen to music or podcasts, or take phone calls, and they’re wireless. Which makes them pretty cool in my book. I’ll put links in the notes below the video so you can check them out, and read what other people are saying too.
If you have a router in your workshop, you probably have some collet wrenches, unless you misplaced them as so many of us do. These are not only replacements for your lost wrenches, but they’ve added a couple of simple features that make them handier. For one thing, the ends are offset, which just make them easier to use at a router table. With straight wrenches you often have to angle them upward, which can make it more difficult to grip the hex nuts. The offset style solves that problem. I also like how one of them has a pair of tabs welded to it. This is the wrench I use for the top nut on the collet, and those tabs keep the wrench from slipping down toward the lower nut. That just makes them faster and easier to use. I don’t know, I just like these better. And the soft rubber grips are more comfortable than the standard wrenches too. I really think it’s worth upgrading to these, and I’m obviously not the only one because they seem to have trouble keeping them in stock on the Rockler website. I’ll link to them in the notes below. If they’re in stock, grab them fast before someone else does. If they’re marked “oversold,” it is definitely worth getting on their waiting list. Who would have thought they would have a waiting list for collet wrenches? I suppose that’s a testament to their popularity. So, check them out.
I always like to include a bargain priced tool in our Cool Tools videos, and this time it’s a pair of LED tweezers from General Tools. We’re woodworkers. We get splinters. A lot. I’ve extracted many with these tweezers. They grip really well, and the LED light makes it easier to see what you’re doing. The quality is really nice too, they’re metal, not plastic. And the LED light doesn’t use much power, so the battery lasts forever. And I think they’re like 6 bucks on Amazon if you use the link in the notes below. I suppose there’s not much else to say about them. They’re cheap, and they’re handy. So check them out.
That’s this month’s cool tools! We’re already looking for new ideas for the next edition. In the meantime, check out the latest issue of Stumpy Nubs Woodworking Journal, full of great tips, tricks and tutorials designed to make you a better woodworker. You can read and subscribe for free at stumpynubs.com. It’s a great place to sit back and have a cold one, because you’ve earned it my friend.
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